So, I made roast chicken. A simple enough dish - just rubbing the chicken with olive oil and salt and pepper and stuffing it with thyme, garlic and chives, and trussing it up like a hostage - but one that gets consistently good results.
I break the roasted, hot chicken down into sections, serve it on a wooden board and put a big bowl of the drippings - heated with a little butter, wine and thyme - right in the middle of the living room coffee table. We don't even eat at the kitchen table. Just hunker down around a low slung slab and dip morsels of tender chicken and crunchy skin into salty herbed chicken juice.
There's usually salad and corn along side. But it's mostly about the chicken. The girls each get a leg and then move systematically through whatever sections are left on the cutting board. Lucy is so addicted to dipping her chicken in the juice she is known to jump up on the table and sit right next to the bowl, so she can compulsively dip her chicken before every bite.
I put out forks, but we never use them. Everything is fingers and I don't even bother with napkins. There's no use. Instead, I give everyone their own green wet wash cloth. The kids are usually naked when we eat roast chicken because there isn't a smock big enough to stop the outpouring of chicken juices. It is a festival of gluttony and greasiness.
Most of the time.
Last night, they both wanted the same leg. Never mind that I cut both legs so they were completely identical. This isn't easy to do, but I'm a smart mom. I get there are pot holes in the road. I can maneuver. They were nearly identical. I swear. Identical.
But alas, it seems that one was just nicer looking than the other. Lucy got to it first and Edie started crying. And not like a little cry, she balled and screamed. The ear-slitting screaming bothered Lucy a little, I mean she asked every five seconds when the screaming was going to end, but it didn't inspire her to stop munching away on the leg, which only made Edie scream louder and do that thing where words and tears come out, but no sound. And then, she picked a piece of chicken off the cutting board and hucked it at her. Hit her square in the cheek.
Lucy wiped the juice off her face and kept eating, commenting effusively and loudly about how good the chicken tasted. She knew how to wound her sister.
Then, while Edie screamed some more, more high-pitched and wailing this time, Lucy decided that there was a bit of fat on the leg that needed removal. I cut it off, but in the confusion of the moment, and all the wailing and throwing ourselves onto the floor, I kind of hacked off a big chunk of the leg meat.
Then Lucy started crying. And they both cried and screamed at the same time. Everyone decided not to eat. Lucy threw the leg on the plate. Someone got chicken juice in the eye. A wash cloth got whipped across the table. Water sprayed my face. Screaming continued.
David and I, we tried to soothe them, but we were hungry. We stole chunks of meat from the wooden board, popping them quickly into chicken juice and into our mouths, while the children held up their chicken legs and wagged them at us, explaining through tears and distorted words why they could never, ever, ever be able eat them.
That's when the negotiation began. Lucy wouldn't eat the disfigured chicken leg and Edie wouldn't eat the perfect chicken leg, so we started the long cajoling, convincing, bartering plea of desperate hungry parents. We tried to explain to Edie that she could eat the perfect leg or she could eat Lucy's disfigured leg and they could trade. We had several alternatives going. They listened for awhile. There was hope.
Then, when everything we said was stupid, they started crying again. More high-pitched screaming. More wailing.
I fantasized that this would never have happened if we had just sat them in front of Cake Boss with a TV dinner and a cup of Kool Aid. Those kids are happy. They don't freak out about disfigured chicken. They don't try to beat their sister over the head with a chicken leg. They eat what ever Swanson makes for them. Do kids really need to sit down and talk to their parents anyway? Why can't we all just veg out in front of the boob tube and not scream at each other? It'll be quiet. Peaceful. Everyone will be too zoned out to consider what is going into their mouths. What the hell were we doing? Why was I trying so hard?
Then, David snapped me out of it.
He told the kids they didn't have to eat. He said it firmly, but also let them know it was their choice. No more screaming and crying, and he explained that not eating the chicken was fine with us, because we got to eat more.
That shut them up.
David and I kept eating, and a minute or so later, Lucy decided she might be able to eat the disfigured leg, and Edie sniffled for a bit longer and decided that the pain of not getting the leg she wanted was still too much to bear, and wanted a breast instead. Then, we got down to the business of dipping the chicken, and washing our greasy faces with the green wash cloth, and talking about Christmas. And in a few more minutes, we had forgotten about the screaming, and the crying and someone actually smiled, then there was laughter, and you'd never know that we were the family, that only a few minutes, before was hucking chicken at each other across the table.
And somehow, slowly, as if we were coming inside from a cold, winter day and de-frosting little by little, becoming warmer and warmer, and more like our true selves, we became the people we remembered we were. And we laughed some more. And dipped more chicken, and then, someone asked to watch Cake Boss and we watched it together as we talked about the cakes, and what kind of cake Lucy wants for her birthday, and why that crazy family on Cake Boss is always screaming at each other.
And we wondered aloud, 'What's wrong with them? Why are they always screaming at each other?' Yeah, we totally don't get that.